Retrospect – Ojai / Klara / Aldeburgh festivals

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This EQ Rake cast, who we called the “Wild Cards”, covered the most mileage of all the EQ participants, with workshop time in Paris, rehearsals in Amsterdam, and performances in Brussels, California and Aldeburgh with the LUDWIG Orchestra. They had more jetlag to deal with than the rest of the 18/19 EQ team, and we also had last minute challenges along the way – recovering from sicknesses, reorganizing rehearsals with the LUDWIG orchestra because of the death of an important orchestral colleague in Holland, restaging the opera in Aldeburgh because the set was detained by German customs.
There was a lot of goodwill and generosity along the way dealing with the intensity of putting the performances together at being at our best, whatever our best could be on any given day. The group bonded quickly during the workshop process in Paris, pictured above with Lora and Jackie at le104. Of course our wonderful yoga coach Phyllis Ferwerda was with the team during our workshop process as well.
One of the cast members’ experience during the Klara performances with a throat infection led to an ongoing dialogue on vocal health, and the assembly by EQ and other vocal friends of an international list of trusted otolaryngologists (Ear Nose and Throat doctors) who specialize in opera singers. And when the set for Rake did not clear customs to arrive in time for the Aldeburgh Festival, our stage director Linus Fellbom, heartbroken as we all were that his staging could not be realized for our final performance, stayed on in Aldeburgh to light the show, even though it was not going to be “his” show. This was a huge act of generosity and an inspiring example to us all.

Rehearsals in Amsterdam with LUDWIG, the day before we headed to La Monnaie in Brussels. It was LUDWIG’s first time with the piece, and true to form, this wonderful orchestra brought out the lively and demanding detail of this masterpiece.

The famous Epilogue of the opera, here in rehearsal at La Monnaie in Brussels.

Antoin Herrera Lopez Kessel as Mother Goose. All three basses who sang Father Truelove agreed to take on the challenge of singing the alto role of Mother Goose as well – and developed their falsetto to the point that they not only looked good in “her” corset but sang convincingly too!
photo credit: Hans van der Woerd

James Way, as the show-stealing Sellem, leading us all through the “opera within an opera” opening of Act 3, where Tom has gone to ruin and his possessions are being auctioned off.
photo credit: Hans van der Woerd

Welsh tenor Elgan Llyr Thomas as Tom Rakewell had us in tears. Regardless of Tom’s (let’s face it!) pathetic behaviour towards Anne and Baba, Elgan’s singing was always touching and this artist is an absolutely wonderful colleague as well. photo credit: Annelies van der Vegt


Under the (very) hot sun in Ojai and in the beautiful wood and brick concert of the Aldeburgh Festival, Kate Howden, James Way and Antoin Herrera Lopez Kessel joined the LUDWIG Orchestra led by Barbara Hannigan, in the complete Pulcinella of Stravinsky. Pulcinella (1920) and The Rake’s Progress (1951) form the bookends of Stravinsky’s neo-classical period.

Watch the Ojai performance here:


The beautiful singer and dancer Yannis Francois as Nick Shadow in the card scene of the Rake.


William Walton’s Facade, where EQ, Ludwig and other Ojai artists took a turn at the tongue-twisting silliness of Edith Sitwell’s poetry set to an array of 1920’s dance-influenced arrangements.


After the Facade performance, we took a moment to honour the visionary Tom Morris (here in his very silly Facade performance outfit), who was finishing a 17 year run as general director of the Ojai Festival. Tom and his staff made EQ and all the Ojai performers feel welcome, and the audiences in Ojai were curious, open-minded and enthusiastic.


Aphrodite Patoulidou singing Vivier’s Lonely Child, one of the most haunting vocal pieces of the 20th century, written by Canadian composer Claude Vivier, accompanied by the LUDWIG Orchestra led by Barbara Hannigan. As Vivier himself said, it is a long, slow, song of love.


When I was looking for a few extra pieces to present in Ojai, mezzo soprano Kate Howden suggested a piece called Twice through the Heart by Mark Anthony Turnage, for mezzo and chamber orchestra. It was a powerful piece based on a true story of domestic violence. Kate wowed the Ojai audience, singing the piece by heart in a stunning vocal and theatrical portrayal, with conductor Edo Frenkel leading the LUDWIG orchestra.


Mezzo soprano Fleur Barron and conductor/composer Edo Frenkel curated a special programme called Rites of Passage for the Ojai Festival featuring folk songs drawn from the cultures of our EQ team. Members of the LUDWIG orchestra joined for this sometimes exhilarating, sometimes introspective trip through folk and traditional repertoire and their functions in society, sung in languages including Greek, Xhosa, Welsh, Hebrew, Cuban Spanish and Chinese.